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Hearing on health network proposal for Danbury, Norwalk and N.Y. hospital group

November 30, 2018

DANBURY - A plan by the health network that runs Danbury and Norwalk hospitals to join forces with a New York hospital group and form a $2.4 billion medical system will get its first public hearing Tuesday.

Residents will have a chance to ask what would change under the agreement to create a medical system that would serve 1.5 million people, from the Long Island Sound to the Hudson River.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said he doesn’t want residents to lose the services they have under the new agreement, announced in the spring, between Western Connecticut Health Network and Health Quest Systems.

“Our concern is to make sure our residents continue to have access to services that are currently provided by Western Connecticut Health Network,” Boughton said. “So, I want to hear more.”

The hope for the partnership is not only to maintain services in a changing health care industry but provide new services.

“Affiliations such as this allow you to add services because you can save money through economies of scale,” said Andrea Rynn, a spokeswoman for Western Connecticut Health Network. “We can add new programs, such as expanded neurosurgical procedures, where if you were a stand-alone entity you might not be able to.”

It will be up to the two health networks to make that case at a 3:30 p.m. hearing Tuesday at Broadview Middle School, 72 Hospital Ave.

The hearing is part of a multi-agency review in Connecticut, New York and Washington, D.C., that could conclude as soon as the spring.

Officials from both networks have stressed the agreement is an equal partnership of similarly sized organizations that will maintain the names of individual hospitals and will not lead to layoffs, except for redundant positions at the department head level.

The new network, which so far does not have a name, would bring together 2,600 physicians and 12,000 employees. It would put Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Putnam Hospital Center, just over the New York border in Carmel, under the same ownership as hospitals in Danbury, Norwalk and New Milford.

The new organization could be large enough to provide new services such as pediatric specialties and certain types of cancer treatments, the networks said.

The affiliation is separate from an agreement Western Connecticut Health Network reached in March with one of the largest health organizations in the country - New York-based Northwell Health - to leverage its expertise in workforce development and purchasing power.

The two health networks say the affiliation is necessary to keep up with changes in health care delivery.

“[C]ost is an even greater factor in the delivery of healthcare than before, and the provision of healthcare services is accordingly migrating out of the hospital and into lower-cost care settings,” reads an application the networks submitted to Connecticut’s Office of Health Strategy. “At the same time, many “non-traditional” providers of care and methods of delivering care are emerging, from retail health and urgent care centers to telehealth, with a necessary emphasis on access, convenience and cost.”

The affiliation is similar to health network mergers across the country.

“These agreements are not unprecedented, but we want to make sure the services people are used to from Danbury Hospital continue,” Boughton said. “We are going to be watching this very closely.”

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342

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